Westport’s schools are among the best in the country.
One Board of Education member thinks he has a way to make them better.
Last week, Mark Mathias presented his colleagues with a new idea: an Innovation Fund. The aim is to give everyone — from the superintendent, Board of Ed, administrators and teachers to the town’s 5,500 students and residents — a chance to offer ideas for education. And then act on them.
Mathias’ Innovation Fund would cost $1 million per year. Funds would go to a project manager; a committee to evaluate applications, oversee projects and assess results, and of course to the projects themselves.
The Innovation Fund could also match grants from outside sources — Kickstarter, GoFundMe, DonorsChoose, or a foundation, company or individual.
The Fund, Mathias says, could offer increased opportunities for student outcomes and teacher development; help attract and retain superior staff, and make Westport even more attractive for families.
The community would also see the potential of teachers and students unleashed to invent, design, build, engineer and create. Meanwhile, businesses could join with schools to leverage resources.
For example, Mathias sees teachers experimenting with different techniques of engaging students; the results could then be compared. Students could request equipment for a maker space, building materials for a community project, or equipment for a new sport. Administrators could come up with an idea to better manage maintenance, equipment or energy, while teachers and students might collaborate running an actual company.
“I have no idea what people will actually come up with,” Mathias says. “But I am constantly amazed at the level of energy and creativity of everyone in Westport — including our children.
“The point is, we need to tap into the enthusiasm and ideas of our entire community, yielding learning experiences far beyond the classroom that prepare students for life beyond Westport, while attracting and retaining the best staff and teachers and continuing to make Westport this preferred place to live.”
He acknowledges that funding the Innovation Fund may prove challenging. The Board of Ed will discuss and vote on the item at its next meeting (Monday, February 1, 7:30 p.m., Staples High School cafeteria).